Interviews

The Changing World of Publishing: Q&A With April Eberhardt

April Eberhardt is a literary agent who, after 25 years as a corporate strategist and consultant, saw an opportunity to play a role in the changing world of publishing. April advises and assists authors in choosing the best path to publication based on their personal goals and objectives, not a fixed model of the past, and serves as an industry advocate for establishing quality standards for non-traditionally published work. April divides her time between San Francisco, New York and Paris and is a reader for the Best American Short Stories series published annually by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

April has been on Bloom’s radar since we published work by her clients Jessica Levine and Anjali Mitter Duva.  This coming June, April and Bloom’s founding editor Sonya Chung will be co-leading a retreat & workshop in France.  Given her extremely busy travel schedule as a guest speaker at writers’ conferences around the globe, we were glad to catch up with April for this brief interview.

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Bloom: You describe yourself as a “literary change agent.” What does this mean to you?

April Eberhardt: The publishing industry is changing fast, veering toward non-traditional approaches as the new normal for the majority of authors. Many writers are becoming hybrid, meaning some work is traditionally published, with other work self- or partner-published. My goal is to help authors write and produce the very best books they can, so that they can choose among the many paths (or select multiple routes) and consistently have beautiful books that readers will love, regardless of how they were published.

Bloom: You yourself came to agenting as a “bloomer.” Tell us a little about your multiple careers and what brought you to the literary world.

AE: I came of age in the ‘70s, when women were entering corporate America in great numbers. I gravitated toward finance, which was considered a “serious” career that didn’t have many women, so I wanted in! After many years of corporate slogging, politics, and lucrative but soul-deadening work, including over two decades in banking and management consulting, I stepped away to see what else was out there. After a seven-year stint in fashion design, I found my way to Zoetrope: All-Story, where as head reader I was introduced to the world of agenting. The rest is history.

Bloom: How have your experiences in previous careers helped your work in the publishing world?

AE: A solid foundation in finance, marketing, design, strategy and entrepreneurship has been enormously helpful. So has the ability to look way down the road and imagine where the publishing world is headed, and encourage authors to develop and diversify their skills so that they’re equipped to succeed in multiple ways (including in the independent, non-traditional publishing world).

Bloom: You spend a lot of time in France and have mentioned establishing an annual writers’ retreat & workshop there. That plan is coming to fruition this June. Tell us about La Poterie Writers’ Retreat & Workshop.

April EberhardtAE: I’m thrilled to be offering a close, focused group of six authors the time, place and space to move their novels toward completion, with expert help at the ready (including Sonya Chung’s!). My hope is for each author to head home with a solid and satisfying manuscript, closer-to-ready for publication.  For any Bloom readers who are interested, the deadline is coming up soon (March 24), so do visit the La Poterie website to learn more and apply.

Bloom: You enjoy working with “bloomers.” Tell us why.

AE: Because this point in time is where it all comes together—we’re old enough to have some life under our belts, and are energetic and curious about the many years and adventures we have ahead. What fun to share experiences and imagine what different lives we might lead!

Bloom: Tell us about how partner publishing works.  Have you and your authors had good experiences with it?  What would you say to authors who are not quite comfortable with the “pay-to-be-published” model?

AE: I’m a big fan of partner publishing, as are the majority of authors I represent who have taken that approach. It’s an increasingly popular “third way” to publish, enabling authors to benefit from the professional expertise of their partner publisher, and sharing the costs and work, as well as the profits. Partner publishers are selective—they vet authors, choosing the ones they feel are a good investment and have commercial potential—and the author retains the rights to her work. The truth is that no matter how you publish these days, traditionally or non-traditionally, you’ll likely need to invest at some level, often for publicity with a traditional publisher, as they frequently do very little, and for editing, design and other expertise when self-publishing or partner publishing.

Bloom: What would you say to people who criticize self-publishing for the fact that a self-published manuscript does not have to go through the levels of professional literary critique—agent, editor, publishing house—that a traditionally published manuscript does? That the only judge of quality is the writer herself?

AE: I’d say that we should judge each book by its cover, content, and overall quality regardless of how it’s published. Most successful authors, regardless of publishing route, have engaged qualified professionals along the way to help them get it right. Let’s let the reader decide whether a book has merit. That’s what sites like Goodreads, Booxby and Indie Reader aim to do. They are agnostic as to an author’s publishing approach, leaving it up to the reader to judge.

Bloom: What advice would you/do you offer to aspiring writers, particularly those 40 and older?

AE: Resolve to write your book! Last I checked, none of us is getting any younger. There are many ways to get started. One of my favorite roles is story shaper. Let’s dream together—and then plan to get it written. Envision how it will feel to hold your book in your hand!

Homepage image via Wikipedia

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